Plow, truck drivers union reaches tentative deal with city, averting strike vote


The union representing the city’s snowplow and garbage truck drivers announced Sunday it reached a tentative five-year contract agreement with the city of Chicago.

Teamsters Local 700 members were scheduled to have an authorization vote Sunday, but a tentative deal was struck late Saturday evening. When the union met Sunday morning, its leaders instead announced a conclusion to negotiations and later said a ratification vote was expected within 10 days.

City officials confirmed a deal was at hand, but neither they nor a union spokesman would discuss the terms of the tentative contract with Local 700. The city says the union represents 1,941 city employees. Most of them are motor truck drivers, who plow the streets and drive garbage trucks.

Local 700 is one of 34 unions that are part of the Coalition of Unionized Public Employees, or COUPE, and a Teamsters agreement was considered the biggest hurdle to finalizing a broader deal.

The COUPE contracts expired June 30 — the end of a 10-year deal made in 2007 by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley as part of an effort to prevent any labor strife as he pursued an ultimately failed effort to land the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Those agreements came at a high point for city finances and resulted in 10-year wage increases of about 29.2 percent. By comparison, the consumer price index during that period rose by 11.8 percent, according to a May report by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

Ferguson recommended the city enter shorter, less-generous agreements. But Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez took issue with many of the inspector general’s recommendations.

Ferguson’s report also noted that many of the 44 contracts with unions that represent more than 90 percent of the city’s 32,000 employees expired either last year or the year before. He said “their expiration thus constitutes a generational moment to align the terms of the relationship between the city and its unionized workforce with operational and fiscal imperatives too long deferred.”

Among the referenced 44 labor agreements is the contract with the Fraternal Order of Police that represents the bulk of the city’s roughly 12,000 sworn police officers. Those negotiations could prove far trickier, given that police reform advocates have said many provisions of the expired FOP contract are an impediment to meting out proper discipline in cases of police abuse.

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Photo Credit: City trucks plow and salt along the streets as a blowing lake-effect snow falls along the lakefront at Montrose Beach in Chicago on March 14, 2017. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)